Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Industrial Employment.

90.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce the number of industries that have closed down since January, 1971; and the number of people who have lost their employment as a result.

A total of fifty-three industrial establishments came to the notice of my Department as having closed down in the first nine months of 1971; two of these closed as a result of fires. The number of workers involved was 2,998. Eight of the factories concerned are being or have been taken over by other firms.

91.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will explain the present increase in unemployment; and what steps he proposes to take to defend jobs now in jeopardy in established industries.

The reasons for the present increase in unemployment are complex and diverse. In the case of any particular industry or firm a combination of factors is usually involved and the unemployment is seldom attributable to any single factor. The factors influencing the situation include a slowing down of economic activity in many countries, resulting in difficulties for some of our exporters in markets abroad; cost inflation; cyclical depression in certain industries, notably in some sectors of the textile industry; and product obsolescence and technological changes leading to competition from alternative products. The movement towards freer trade is, of course, also a factor although often not the only one and in some cases not a factor at all.

Assistance to established industry to maintain its position, and to redevelop, is available in the form of modernisation and re-equipment grants and technical assistance grants. My Department and the Industrial Development Authority are in close touch with industry and in cases where difficulties arise arrangements are made to bring into play the whole range of services provided by the state Agencies, including such bodies as the Industrial Credit Company, the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards and the Irish National Productivity Committee. This kind of assistance can be effective in many cases but it must be recognised that some firms, for various reasons, are not viable and in such cases efforts can only be made to provide alternative employment.

The Government is naturally concerned to ensure that all measures possible are taken to deal with the present position. The Deputy will be aware that the Taoiseach and other Ministers concerned have discussed the problems involved with representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on Monday last. Suggestions made at that meeting are at present being examined.

Would the Minister not consider adding to the reasons he has given for growing unemployment the fact of penal company taxation and the existence in the country at present of complete and widespread political insecurity and uncertainty?

One would have to accept, in relation to the statement of the Minister for Finance last week and the arrangements he made, that this is a contributory factor. Let us put it the other way. The general overall political situation is a factor also.

Would the Minister not agree that, when a company is in difficulty and goes to the Industrial Development Authority and succeeds in making a case for a grant, if the discussions last several months during which time the industry has great difficulty in carrying on, and if it subsequently goes to the Industrial Credit Corporation for a loan, it is a bit much to be told that they feel the company is not viable and not eligible for any assistance even though the IDA, knowing that a loan was to be applied for, agreed to give a grant for the purpose of trying to keep the company in existence?

I take it that the Deputy is talking about an individual case.

I am talking about one but there are many cases, as I have since discovered.

A re-equipment or modernisation grant must be provided by the IDA under existing regulations. The Industrial Credit Corporation may take the view that the company is not viable. One of the reasons that has emerged in relation to a number of the industries that have failed is the lack of proper management, or management not being able to adapt itself to modern-day conditions.

Would the Minister not agree that, if such an application is made to the Industrial Credit Corporation, their investigation should run side by side with the investigation by the Industrial Development Authority, and that there should not be a further lengthy inquiry? There is no point in the IDA agreeing to a grant if the Industrial Credit Corporation take the view that there is no question of giving a loan even though it is agreed that both loan and grant are required.

This is perfect if the applications to both organisations are running concurrently.

They should be.

Very often it is not until a person has finished with the IDA that he is in a position to go to the ICC.

That should not be so. If a company makes application for the first and indicates that it is looking for the second, both of them should run together. It is a question of sending the fool further.

Did the Minister ever hear of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement? Did the Minister refer to it in his answer?

I did not hear him.

He whispered it.

I said that the movement towards freer trade is, of course, also a factor although often not the only one and in some cases not a factor at all.

That is putting itpianissimo.

He does not like saying it too loudly.

Everyone in the House knows it is a major factor.

This is part and parcel of what the question is all about. I spelled out the reasons. Unfortunately, the Deputy was not listening to the full reply. I know he does not like listening to long replies and this was one of my long replies.

It is unfortunate that the Deputy cannot interpret the Minister's mind. The Deputy understands the reasons all right.

92.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will make a statement on the future employment prospects in Irish Steel Holdings Limited, Haulbowline, County Cork.

A reduction in home demand coupled with a world-wide depression in the steel industry is affecting orders for the products of Irish Steel Holdings Ltd. and it was feared that some temporary redundancies there would be unavoidable.

Some additional export orders have recently been secured by the management and, with the co-operation of all concerned, redundancies may be avoided if export work can be maintained. I understand that there may be some temporary laying off of workers in connection with the overhaul of some of the plant.

Additional plant being installed at the mill is expected to improve the company's long term prospects and strengthen the employment position.

93.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is aware of the number of (i) industrial workers on part-time employment and (ii) redundant workers, in Cork city and county; and what steps he proposes to take in this regard.

Particulars of part-time employment and redundancy of workers in Cork city and county are, of course, available to me from the Central Statistics Office and the Department of Labour.

The Government provide generous incentives designed to attract new industries and to strengthen existing industries. I understand from the Industrial Development Authority that there are three new factories and two expansions of existing undertakings under construction in the county which will, it is estimated, employ 290 workers, mostly male, at full production and that the authority have also approved grant assistance for five other new industrial projects in the county, involving an employment potential of about 670 workers. In addition, two advance factories are planned for County Cork and the authority have under consideration 24 proposals under the small industries programme.